Four years later, Dakota Pipeline protesters score a great victory
A court order ruled that the pipeline from Dakota to Northern Illinois must be closed pending an environmental review, giving a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and activists.
After the Obama administration said "no" to the pipeline that would link Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, the State Department issued a permit in March 2017 authorizing TransCanada to carry out the Keystone XL pipeline project in Dakota, to transport crude oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
Several experts warned of the risk of irreparable damage to the environment; water protection activists claimed from a resistance camp that oil spills could put residents at risk and contaminate the Missouri River, and several American Indian tribes claimed a violation of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty that gave them the right to remain on their ancestral land. But all was in vain. The pipeline would be built anyway.
Four years later, after arduous protests and legal battles, Judge James E. Boasberg of the District of Columbia Court rescinded the federal permit that had allowed the pipeline to operate while the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which granted the permits for the pipeline in the first place, conducted an extensive environmental impact review, the New York Times explained.
In his opinion, Judge Boasberg wrote that the court was “mindful of the disruption such a shutdown will cause” but that it had to consider the “potential harm each day the pipeline operates.”
The decision, which could be appealed, is a victory for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and other Native American and environmental groups that have fought the project for years, and a significant defeat for President Trump, who has tried to keep the Dakota Access Pipeline alive.
“Today is a historic day for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the many people who have supported us in the fight against the pipeline,” Mike Faith, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, said in a statement.
“This pipeline should have never been built here,” he added. “We told them that from the beginning.”
Energy Transfer, the Texas Company that owns the pipeline, said in a statement Monday it would file a motion to stay the decision, and if that failed, appeal to a higher court.
“We will be immediately pursuing all available legal and administrative processes and are confident that once the law and full record are fully considered, Dakota Access Pipeline will not be shut down and that oil will continue to flow,” it said.
However, the legal victory of the native tribe and environmental activists is yet another symbol of the scope of social struggles during the Trump era.
The story of the Dakota Access Pipeline is as damning a tale as any told about the crooked dealings of the colonists and capitalists who swindled this continent away from its First Peoples,” wrote Julian Brave Noisecat in his column for Rolling Stone, recalling how the protests against the pipeline were met with dogs, tear gas, armed vehicles and more.
“In the months and years since, […] the Standing Rock generation —the generation of Indigenous young people who came of age in the movement — have transformed Indian Country, the United States, and the world,” Noisecat added. “Standing Rock has shaped court decisions, shifted environmental politics, changed laws, and forced a long-overdue and ongoing reckoning for a nation built on slave labor and stolen land. It’s a reckoning that, in its most powerful moments, has reinforced the concurrent Movement for Black Lives.”